MGM-1 Matador

The Martin MGM-1 Matador was the first operational surface-to-surface cruise missile designed and built by the United States. It was developed after World War II, drawing upon their wartime experience with creating the Republic-Ford JB-2, a copy of the German V-1. The Matador was similar in concept to the V-1, but it included a radio command that allowed in-flight course corrections. This allowed accuracy to be maintained over greatly extended ranges of just under 1000 km. To allow these ranges, the Matador was powered by a small turbojet engine in place of the V-1's much less efficient pulsejet.

Matador was armed with the W5 nuclear warhead, essentially an improved version of the Fat Man design that was lighter and had a smaller cross section. A single US Air Force group, 1st Pilotless Bomber Squadron, was armed with the weapon, keeping them on alert with a six-minute launch time. It could be easily retargeted, unlike weapons using inertial guidance systems. Accuracy at maximum range was about 1 mile (1.6 km), which allowed it to be used against any large target like troop concentrations or armored spearheads.

First flown in 1949, Matador entered service in 1952 and left service in 1962. Matador carried several designations during its lifetime, originally known under the War Department's system as SSM-A-1. By the time it was introduced to service, the Air Force had been created, and they referred to them as bombers and assigned it the B-61 designation. It was later re-designated TM-61, for "tactical missile", and finally MGM-1 when the US Department of Defense introduced the tri-service missile and drone designation system in 1963.

Martin MGM-1 Matador
Martin MGM-1 Matador
TypeSurface-to-surface cruise missile
Place of originUnited States
Service history
In service1952 - 1962
Production history
ManufacturerGlenn L. Martin Company
No. built1,200[1]
Mass12,000 lb
Length39 ft 6 in
Diameter4 ft 6 in
WarheadNuclear W-5 (50 kt yield)[1][2]

Engine4,600 lbf (20,000 N) thrust Allison J33-A-37 Turbojet sustainer engine; 55,000 lb (25,000 kg) thrust Aerojet General solid fuel rocket, 2 s burn
Wingspan28 ft 7 in
250 mi (400 km) (TM-61A)[1]
620 mi (1,000 km) (TM-61C)[1]
Flight altitude35,000–43,000 ft (11,000–13,000 m)[1][3]
Speed650 mph (1,050 km/h; Mach 0.85)[1]
(supersonic terminal dive)[3][4]
"A" Radar directed radio command guidance system; "C" same plus Shanicle
Accuracy2,700–1,600 ft (820–490 m) CEP[3]
Transporter erector launcher


The first flight of Matador, model XSSM-A-1, occurred at the White Sands Missile Range on 20 January 1949. The first two production B-61 Matador missiles arrived at Eglin AFB, Florida, in September 1953, under the control of the 6555th Guided Missile Squadron, for climatic testing, although instrumentation and pre-test check-outs kept the actual cold-weather tests from beginning until November.[5] At the end of 1953 the first squadron was operational, but not deployed until 1954, as the 1st Pilotless Bomber Squadron, Bitburg Air Base, Germany with the B-61A armed with the W5 nuclear warhead. The missile was capable of carrying a 2000-pound conventional warhead, but it is unknown if any of these were actually deployed. By the late 1950s at least, all Matadors carried the nuclear warhead.

The last Matadors were removed from active service in 1962, with a total of 1200 missiles produced. At that time, they were deployed in squadrons at Bitburg AB, West Germany, in Tainan, Taiwan, and in various locations in South Korea. The specific maintenance training schools were in at the Glenn L. Martin factory and Lowry AFB, both in Denver Colorado, while the Launch Training was at Orlando AFB, Florida (later transferred to the US Navy and renamed NTC Orlando) and Cape Canaveral AFS, Florida. When the Tainan squadrons were inactivated, the airframes were made non-flyable by chopping out the attachment points in the bulkheads of the fuselage sections with axes, and were sold locally as scrap after having the warheads removed. Most of the support vehicles, consisting mainly of 2½ and 5-ton trucks, were disposed of on the local market. Presumably, the other sites similarly disposed of their missiles and equipment.


The missile was piloted via radio link and tracked via a network of ground-based AN/MSQ-1 radar stations. This guidance system, with its line-of-sight communications, limited the guided range to about 400 km (250 mi). As with all radio communications it was also prone to enemy radio jamming. While in theory the missile could be "handed off" in flight from one guidance station to the next, in practice that was rarely successful, and deployed missiles did not attempt it.

In 1954, the USAF started to develop the YTM-61C version which was equipped with the new Shanicle (Short Range Navigation Vehicle) guidance system. It became operational in 1957 and used ground-based microwave emitters to generate hyperbolic grids for range and azimuth, which were used by the missile guidance system to navigate. Now the guided range could be extended to the maximum flight range of the missile, about 620 miles (1,000 km). Anecdotal evidence indicated that the Shanicle system was very accurate, with stories of one missile flying into the ground in the same crater left by a previous missile during an early exercise in North Africa. These may or may not be true, but in any case the Shanicle system was soon discontinued on operational missiles. By the late 1950s, all were using the MSQ-1 (called "MisCue-1" by the crews) ground-based guidance system.

A unique identifying feature of the TM-61C variant was the raised rear section of the fuselage above the jet exhaust, called the "doghouse" by those who were assigned to the missile squadrons. This had originally housed the Shanicle electronics, but was retained when those systems were removed. The "doghouse" had no access panels or doors and was an aerodynamic structural component added to TM-61C and TM-76A to prevent missile "shudder" and breakup during terminal dive. It contained no functional components. The operational Matadors were zinc chromate green in their final versions, but this doghouse was quite often left natural aluminum, as were the wings and tail group.

The MSQ guidance vans required to guide the Matador were removed from Germany after September 1962 when the last Matador operational units were deactivated.[4]

Launch crew

TM-61 Matador missile
A Matador missile on its launcher near Hahn Air Base, West Germany.
TM-61C Matador at Gatow
A Matador missile at Gatow, Germany.

The Matador launch crew consisted of eleven members. One Launch Officer, who was usually a 1st lieutenant (O-2) or a junior captain (O-3), one Crew Chief, usually a technical sergeant (E-6), two Warhead techs, two Flight Control Systems techs, two Guidance techs, two Airframe and Engine techs—one of whom doubled as the crane operator and the other as the launcher tech, and one Booster Rocket tech. Since the missile was at least theoretically "mobile", all launch equipment was mounted on trucks and trailers. As a result, in addition to their primary duties, most crew members were trained as and doubled as drivers. All enlisted members other than the Crew Chief were usually airman second class (E-3) or airman (E-2) on their first enlistment, though there were sometimes staff sergeants (E-5) or even technical sergeants who had already served multiple enlistments. In addition, there were similarly-sized guidance crews on remote sites, and a maintenance staff for the missiles, the guidance equipment, and the vehicles. Because of the number of people required to support the missile, a "mobile" Matador squadron with five launch crews could grow quite cumbersome. As a result, the squadrons were soon deployed at fixed sites and the idea of a mobile missile was abandoned.

An individual Matador missile was shipped from the Martin plant to its unit in seven wooden crates.[6] A single Matador missile required many vehicles to move it and its associated support equipment. There was a Transport Vehicle, which was a short wheelbase semi-trailer which carried the missile with the wings removed and attached alongside the fuselage, a Launcher, which was a semi-trailer more than 40 feet (12 m) long weighing more than 30,000 pounds. There was a Target Selection Van, a Warhead Van, a 60 kW diesel generator, a tug, a hydraulic unit, a mobile Blockhouse, and a truck-mounted hydraulic crane. There were several 2½ and 5 ton trucks (tractor type) to attach to and tow the launchers, Transport Vehicle, and generator. In some squadrons, each launch team had a large trailer in which it stored weapons, ammunition and supplies.

A typical missile launch site had an active, or "hot" pad on which was kept the missile most ready to launch. This pad was manned by the on-duty launch crew. According to the book, this required 15 minutes to do, but some crews could accomplish it in slightly more than 6 minutes. The site usually had a backup pad, on which was a missile which would require somewhat more effort to get it launched. This pad was manned by the standby crew, and if they were on site, could usually be ready to launch in 20–30 minutes. If there was a third pad, it may not have a missile on it at all. If one of the off-duty crews could make it to the launch site in time, they would try to get a missile onto the launcher there, and get it ready to go. Since all launch sites were within just a few minutes flying time from the potential enemy, it was unlikely that the third missile would launch, but all crews had multiple practice drills during their periods as duty and standby crews, trying to reduce the time needed to get the missiles away.

Often, these drills were accompanied by a flyover of a T-33 aircraft on which was mounted the MSQ-1 guidance system. (F-100 Super Sabres from the 36th and 50th TFWs were normally used for launch simulation exercises in Europe). This aircraft would fly over the launch pad at very low altitude and then simulate the flight profile of the missile under the control of the guidance crews. This gave the guidance crews practice controlling a missile in flight, as well as giving squadron officers some flight time.

The Matador flight profile was very simple and predictable, which no doubt contributed to its demise. When the Launch Officer pressed the two launch switches, the JATO bottle fired, accelerating the missile to 250 miles per hour in the space of two and a half seconds. At this point the JATO bottle fell away and the missile continued on a preset heading and rate of climb until it was acquired by the guidance crews and their equipment. The missile had no altitude or speed control, continuing to fly as fast as possible, climbing as the fuel load was burned off, until it reached its maximum altitude. At a point about six miles (10 km) from the intended target, the guidance crews sent the "dump" signal, which caused the missile to nose over into what was called the "terminal dive". This dive was near vertical, continuing until the missile reached the preset detonation altitude as determined by the radio altimeter, at which point the weapon exploded. Should the radio altimeter fail, a backup barometric detonator was used. Should that fail, there was an impact detonator.

As with all missiles and bombers of the day, accuracy was not good in today's terms. Anything within a mile was considered a hit. Even though the missile was classified as a "tactical" weapon, in fact it was not technically capable of hitting individual targets, so it was likely targeted at cities near which a military installation such as an airfield existed. Actual targets were classified, and kept from everyone except the actual guidance officer.

Variants and design stages

  • MX-771: Original U.S. Air Force project number.
  • SSM-A-1: Early proposed designation for operational missile. This designation was dropped before the first operational missiles were completed.
  • XSSM-A-1: First designation applied to first prototypes for development of the missile airframe.
  • YSSM-A-1: First designation applied to prototypes for development of the guidance system.
  • B-61: Operational designation proposed to supersede SSM-A-1 designation. This designation was designed to classify the missile as a pilotless bomber.
  • XB-61: Redesignation of the XSSM-A-1
  • YB-61: Redesignation of the YSSM-A-1
  • B-61A: First production version of the Matador. Principal difference from the XB-61 and YB-61 was redesign of the airframe with high wings in place of the previous mid-mounted wings.
  • TM-61A: Redesignation of the B-61A as the USAF decided to classify the Matador as a tactical missile instead of a pilotless bomber.
  • TM-61B: Significant redesign of the TM-61A, ultimately being redesignated as its own system, the TM-76 Mace.
  • TM-61C: Improved TM-61A developed as a stop-gap as the TM-61B was under development.
  • MGM-1C: Redesignation of the TM-61C in 1963 to meet new aircraft and missile designation standards adopted by the USAF. Only the TM-61C required redesignation as the TM-61A had been fully withdrawn from service and the TM-61B had been redesignated the TM-76 Mace, and ultimately received the MGM-13 designation.


 United States: The United States Air Force

Flag of Germany.svg Germany: Bundeswehr


Unrestored Matador Missile from Florence Air & Missile Museum at Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina (KCLT)
Martin XTM-61 Matador
"XTM-61" on static display at Hawkinsville-Pulaski County Airport in Hawkinsville, Georgia

Below is a list of museums with a Matador missile in their collection:

Cruise missile pydna
Cruise missile at Pydna

See also

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

Related lists


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "MGM-1". Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles.
  2. ^ Matador. Encyclopedia Astronautica.
  3. ^ a b c Matador. Federation of American Scientists.
  4. ^ a b The Martin Matador and Mace Missiles
  5. ^ Connors, S.Sgt. J. J., "Guided Missiles: Eglin Tests Matadors In Hangar", Playground News, Fort Walton Beach, Florida, 12 November 1953, Volume 8, Number 42, page 1.
  6. ^ "Pilotless Bomber Shipped in Crates." Popular Mechanics, August 1954, p. 90.
  7. ^ Museum of Aviation Web site Archived 10 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine

External links

302nd Tactical Missile Squadron

The 302nd Tactical Missile Squadron is an inactive United States Air Force unit. Its last assignment was with the 487th Tactical Missile Wing at Comiso Air Station, Italy, where it was inactivated in 1991 with the implementation of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

The squadron was first activated in 1943 as the 822nd Bombardment Squadron. After training, it moved to the Southwest Pacific Theater, where it flew North American B-25 Mitchell medium bombers in combat. The squadron was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation and a Philippine Presidential Unit Citation for its actions. In late 1945, the squadron moved to Japan, where it became part of the occupation forces before inactivating in the spring of 1946.

The squadron was reactivated in France 1953, when it replaced an Air National Guard squadron that had been mobilized for the Korean War. In 1958, the Air Force withdrew its tactical bombers from Europe but the squadron remained active as the 822nd Tactical Missile Squadron when it replaced the 11th Tactical Missile Squadron at Sembach Air Base. It operated MGM-1 Matador and MGM-13 Mace missiles at Sembach until inactivating in 1966. The squadron was again activated in 1983 as the 302nd Tactical Missile Squadron when the Air Force deployed BGM-109G Gryphon cruise missiles to Europe.

405th Tactical Missile Squadron

The 405th Tactical Missile Squadron ("Green Dragons") is an inactive United States Air Force unit. It was last assigned to the 38th Tactical Missile Wing, based at Sembach Air Base, West Germany. It was inactivated on 25 September 1966.

Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex 4

Launch Complex 4 (LC-4) was one of the first series of launch complexes to be built at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Cape Canaveral, Florida. It consisted of two pads, LC-4 which was used for 25 launches of Bomarc, Matador and Redstone missiles between 1952 and 1960; and LC-4A, which was used for three Bomarc launches between 1958 and 1959.

Following its deactivation in 1960, the original structures at the complex were dismantled. New facilities were built at the site in the 1980s, and it was used for aerostat launches between 1983 and 1989. Following this, the aerostat launch facilities were also removed, and the complex is currently not accessible to the public.

Cruise missile

A cruise missile is a guided missile used against terrestrial targets, that remains in the atmosphere and flies the major portion of its flight path at approximately constant speed. Cruise missiles are designed to deliver a large warhead over long distances with high precision. Modern cruise missiles are capable of travelling at supersonic or high subsonic speeds, are self-navigating, and are able to fly on a non-ballistic, extremely low-altitude trajectory.

Herman R. Staudt

Herman R. Staudt (born 1926) was United States Under Secretary of the Army from 1973 to 1975.

Kaufbeuren Air Base

Kaufbeuren Air Base (Fliegerhorst Kaufbeuren) is a German Air Force military airbase. It is currently the home of the Luftwaffe Technical School 1.

List of United States Air Force missile squadrons

This article lists the missile squadrons of the United States Air Force. There are nine missile squadrons currently active in the United States (listed in bold type); all nine are equipped to operate intercontinental ballistic missiles.

MGM-13 Mace

The Martin Mace (designated as TM-76A and TM-76B tactical missile until 1963, then as MGM-13A for Mobile Ground Launched Missile and CGM-13 for Coffin Ground Launched Missile) is a tactical cruise missile developed from the Martin TM-61 Matador later MGM-1 Matador. It was replaced by the MGM-31 Pershing missile by Robert McNamara, and later in its role as a cruise missile for West Germany, by the BGM-109G Ground Launched Cruise Missile.

MGM-31 Pershing

The MGM-31A Pershing was the missile used in the Pershing 1 and Pershing 1a field artillery missile systems. It was a solid-fueled two-stage ballistic missile designed and built by Martin Marietta to replace the PGM-11 Redstone missile as the primary nuclear-capable theater-level weapon of the United States Army and replaced the MGM-1 Matador cruise missiles operated by the German Air Force. Pershing later replaced the European-based MGM-13 Mace cruise missiles deployed by the United States Air Force and the German Air Force. Development began in 1958, with the first test missile fired in 1960, the Pershing 1 system deployed in 1963 and the improved Pershing 1a deployed in 1969. The U.S. Army replaced the Pershing 1a with the Pershing II Weapon System in 1983 while the German Air Force retained Pershing 1a until all Pershings were eliminated in 1991. The U.S. Army Missile Command (MICOM) managed the development and improvements while the Field Artillery Branch deployed the systems and developed tactical doctrine.

Matador Automatic Radar Control

Matador Automatic Radar Control (MARC) was a command guidance system for the Martin MGM-1 Matador ground launched cruise missile that used combination radar/computer/communication centrals ("Q" systems) for ground-directed bombing. As for the earlier ground central used with the X-10 aircraft,* MARC had an "Air Link" from the ground for control and an airborne AN/APW-11A radar transponder on the missile for ranging. A series of "MSQ sites". each with a mobile AN/MSQ-1A central in 3 vans had an automatic tracking radar to geolocate the Matador up to ~600 nmi (690 mi; 1,100 km). MARC provided command guidance during the "mid-course phase" after Matador/MARC contact was established following the missile launch off the Zero Length Launcher and until an MSQ transmitted the dive ("dump") command to start the flight path toward the target. Originating in the Caltech/Martin "ZEL Project" and developed as part of weapon system "Project MX 771" at the "Air Force Missile Test Center, Cocoa, Florida"; MARC had accuracy at "crossover into enemy territory" of ~500 ft (150 m) and—at an AN/MSQ-1A range of 165 nautical miles (190 mi; 306 km)—a CEP of 2,700 ft (820 m).

Missile Wing 1

Missile Wing 1 (German: Flugkörpergeschwader 1, FKG 1) was a unit of the German Air Force.

Missile Group 11 (German: Flugkörpergruppen 11, FKGrp 11) was activated at Kaufbeuren Air Base in February 1958, equipped with the MGM-1 Matador cruise missile.

On 1 September 1963, FKG 1 was activated at Saarburg Kaserne in Landsberg am Lech. On 1 January 1964 FKGrp 11 was assigned to FKG 1. In May 1964, FKGrp 12 was formed as a subordinate unit in Landsberg. On 1 October 1965 FKGrp 11 was dissolved and FKGrp 13 was officially formed in Kaufbeuren. The wing went through training at Fort Sill on the Pershing missile. FKGrp 12 fired missiles in April 1964 and FKGrp 13 in July 1964. The wing received missiles at their Quick Reaction Sites in West Germany on 12 August 1964. The wing was authorized six launchers; this increased to eight launchers in 1965. A quick reaction alert (QRA) site was established at Schwabstadl, south of Lechfeld Air Base. A new QRA site south of Landsberg became operational in 1970.

In 1971, the wing upgraded to 36 Pershing 1a launchers. FKGrp 12 and FKGrp 13 were dissolved and four squadrons were formed.

Warheads were under U.S. control, released only in wartime conditions. Warheads for FKGrp 12 were controlled by the 82nd United States Army Missile Detachment (82nd USAFAD) and warheads for FKGrp 13 were controlled by the 74th United States Army Missile Detachment from 1965 to 1971. After FKG 1 reorganized in 1971, the two missile detachments were merged into the 74th U.S. Army Field Artillery Detachment which provided support from 1971 to 1991.

A new combat alert site (CAS) at Lehmgrube in Kettershausen was completed in 1975 for FKG 1, but the site was turned over to the 56th Field Artillery Brigade, who named it Fort von Steuben. A new QRA Site at Ochsenhof was activated in March 1976. The QRA site at Schwabstadl was closed and the Landsberg-Süd site became a training site. FKG 1 then moved to Görisried/Bodelsberg.

Pershing 1b was a single stage, reduced range version of the Pershing II with the same range as the Pershing 1a. The Pershing II launcher was designed so that the cradle could be easily repositioned to handle the shorter missile airframe. The intent was to replace the German Air Force's Pershing 1a systems with Pershing 1b, since SALT II limited the range of German-owned missiles. The German government agreed to destroy its Pershing 1a systems when the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty on 27 May 1988, thus the Pershing 1b was never deployed. Although not covered by the treaty, West Germany agreed unilaterally to the removal of the Pershing 1a missiles from its inventory in 1991, and the missiles were destroyed in the United States.

The wing was deactivated on 31 December 1991.

Pydna (missile base)

Pydna is a former American missile base in Kastellaun, Germany named Wueschheim Air Station.

Nuclear-equipped MGM-1 Matador, MGM-13 Mace, MIM-14 Nike Hercules and BGM-109G Ground Launched Cruise Missiles were stationed here.

It now hosts Nature One, a famous open-air electronic music festival.

Festival facilities now use the same bunkers that were once home to 64 Ground-Launch Cruise Missiles (GLCM) (BGM-109), Tactical Nuclear Missiles, under the operational control of the 38th Tactical Missile Wing of the United States Air Force.

Republic-Ford JB-2

The Republic-Ford JB-2, also known as the KGW and LTV-N-2 Loon, was a United States copy of the German V-1 flying bomb. Developed in 1944, and planned to be used in the United States invasion of Japan (Operation Downfall), the JB-2 was never used in combat. It was the most successful of the United States Army Air Forces Jet Bomb (JB) projects (JB-1 through JB-10) during World War II. Postwar, the JB-2 played a significant role in the development of more advanced surface-to-surface tactical missile systems such as the MGM-1 Matador and later MGM-13 Mace.


Terrain Contour Matching, or TERCOM, is a navigation system used primarily by cruise missiles. It uses a pre-recorded contour map of the terrain that is compared with measurements made during flight by an on-board radar altimeter. A TERCOM system considerably increases the accuracy of a missile compared with inertial navigation systems (INS). The increased accuracy allows a TERCOM-equipped missile to fly closer to obstacles and generally lower altitudes, making it harder to detect by ground radar.


UB.109T was a British cruise missile project calling for a system able to deliver a 5,000 lb (2.27 tonne) conventional warhead over 465 miles (700 km) travelling at 600 mph at 50,000 ft (15,000 m). Guidance would be by Decca or LORAN. The specification for production was for plastic construction. Development was cancelled on 30 September 1954.


The Convair XSM-74 was a sub-sonic, jet-powered, ground-launched decoy cruise missile.

Zero-length launch

The zero-length launch system or zero-length take-off system (ZLL, ZLTO, ZEL, ZELL) was a system whereby jet fighters and attack aircraft were intended to be placed on short-burn duration, often solid-fuel, "dropaway" rocket booster units, deployed with mobile launch platforms. Most zero length launch experiments took place in the 1950s, during the Cold War.

1955–1962 United States Air Force rocket and missile designations
Air-to-air missiles
Other types
Undesignated types
USAAS/USAAC/USAAF/USAF bomber designations, Army/Air Force and Tri-Service systems
Original sequences
Main sequence
Long-range Bomber
Tri-Service sequence
United States Air Force rocket and missile designations 1947–1951
Test vehicles


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